FOUNTAIN VALLEY — Going into a tennis match against players from University High can be a tricky proposition.
The best pre-match strategy sometimes might seem to be hoping for a bit of divine intervention.
When Corona del Mar High freshman Henry Gordon and Newport Harbor freshman Reese Stalder got on the court Thursday with the Trojans' Stefan Menichella and Drew Dawson, they felt like they had nothing to lose in a round of 16 match.
"I don't think either of us thought we were going to win," Stalder said.
Yet the unseeded Gordon and Stalder found a way to squeak out a 7-6 (7-5), 4-6, 10-5 victory in a third set super-tiebreaker, shocking the No. 5 seeds at the 110th annual Southern California Junior Sectionals. And, though Gordon and Stalder then fell to top-seeded Robbie Bellamy of Pacific Palisades and Gregory Garcia of Poway, 6-3, 6-2, in the quarterfinals, the locals exited the tournament in doubles with their heads high at Los Caballeros Racquet & Sports Club.
"I think we exceeded everyone's expectations," Stalder said. "I think we can hang with anyone."
Two other local doubles teams also came up a bit short in their quest to make the semifinals at the prestigious tournament. Newport Beach resident Joseph Di Giulio and his partner, George Goldhoff of Irvine, lost in the quarterfinals as well. Di Giulio and Goldhoff, No. 9-seeded, squandered a match point in the super-tiebreaker and fell to No. 2-seeded Brendan McClain of Ventura and T.J. Pura of Pacific Palisades, 6-7, 6-3 and 11-9 in the super-tiebreaker. That came after Di Giulio and Goldhoff topped Alan Leahy of Claremont and Aaron Lizardo of Upland, 6-0, 6-1.
CdM junior Alec Adamson and sophomore Carson Williams fell in their round of 16 match to No. 4-seeded Jayson Amos of Mission Viejo and Garrett Auproux of Studio City, 6-0, 6-3.
Gordon and Stalder showed maturity beyond their years against Menichella and Dawson, two key components of the Uni team that captured the CIF Southern Section Division 1 title this year. Menichella and Dawson teamed in April to win Ojai doubles, and Dawson also teamed with Uni's Ryo Shimizu to advance to the CIF Individuals doubles title match last month.
But there were Gordon and Stalder, storming to a 6-2 lead in the first-set tiebreaker after neither team broke serve in the set. Uni won three straight points, but a nice service return by Gordon prompted an error to give he and Stalder the first set.
Stalder had his serve broken three times in the second set as Dawson and Menichella won it, 6-4, to set up the super-tiebreaker.
"I went into the [super]-tiebreaker saying, 'Just hit it,' so I could at least give us a shot," Stalder said.
He did. Stalder and Gordon each had two aces in the super-tiebreaker, which they never trailed.
After the nearly two-hour match, they were also in the first set against Bellamy and Garcia, before the top seeds pulled away. But Stalder and Gordon could keep their heads high.
They were the only unseeded team to make the quarterfinals.
"It gives us a lot of confidence going forward," Gordon said. "[We gained] a lot of experience."
Adamson and Williams were less successful against the No. 4 seeds, hurt by a slow start.
"The first set killed us," Williams said. "They were hitting winners every shot … in the second set it was 3-all, and we had a lot of break-point opportunities."
Di Giulio and Adamson are each in boys' 18 singles action on Friday, as are Gordon and Stalder in the boys' 16s. Gordon is the No. 6 seed.
Other locals in round of 32 singles action Friday include Austin Di Giulio (boys' 12s), Max Pham (boys' 14s), Bjorn Hoffmann (boys' 14s) and Jenna Moustafa (girls' 14s).
CdM freshman Chaz Downing has advanced to Saturday's round of 16 in boys' 16 singles. His scheduled round of 32 opponent, No. 5-seeded Stefan Doehler of Foothill, was forced to withdraw due to injury.